Do pop over to Authors Allsorts to read about what I would be if I wasn’t an writer-illustrator. It involves being basically unemployable, my Mum’s dream for me to have a shoe shop, and my secret life as a Borrower. There’s a close up of my hand which looks slightly horrible, like a huge ham. Ah well.

My good pal Zoe noticed that I called myself a writer and not an author. I’ve been thinking about it all day. She takes children’s books extremely seriously and has a lot of respect for our profession, so considers a picture book text as high an art form as anything else.
I came up with something about writing books with too few words to be a proper author, but actually that’s tosh.

Peter Bently chipped in and put it perfectly: few words, but ‘what laboured-over, brain-wracked, spit-n-polished, nipped-n-tucked, finely-nuanced, well-aimed words’.

I wonder whether it’s because I like to say what I do – I write and illustrate books for children – rather than what I am.
‘I am an author’ – it sounds weird to me, but I don’t know why it should.

What about you?

Anyway, I have some HOMEWORK for you.
I tipped out and looked at my story-writing notebooks (as you can see I take the Henry Ford approach – you can have any colour as long as it’s black).
Lots of pages covered in words scribbled chaotically, a phrase here, a name there, half a thought, a crumb of an idea. To proper words what doodling is to proper drawing. But what IS that, what kind of writing is it, does it have a name?




  1. Miranda Dickinson

    They’re the notebooks of a wordsmith!

    I think you call what you do whatever you’re comfortable with. You’re a storyteller, a dreamer, a writer, an author: whatever hat fits on any given day is fine. The loveliest thing about writing books is that you’re creating worlds for others to wander through. If people follow you, it doesn’t matter what your badge says!

    I tend to prefer writer and let others call me an author, but it really doesn’t matter. Maybe we should be Intrepid Imagination Adventurers instead! xx

    • clara

      Hello Miranda, thanks so much for calling by! A wordsmith is an inspired expression, I can quite see why you chose it. To me it suggests heating up words in a roaring forge.
      You’re right, what’s in a name – it isn’t as if a Brownies badge we have achieved… Imagination Adventurers is a very exciting proposition, I’ll take that please!
      (by the way, as it runs in families – does you bump have a notebook and pencil already d’you think?)

  2. Colin

    If you take the first bit of “words” and the end bit of “doodling”, how about “woodling”?

    Have you woodled today?
    I haven’t, but I woodled a lot yesterday.

    • Clara

      Woodling is a marvellous word! Rolls around the tongue VERY satisfactorily. I haven’t woodled yet today, but Mum is coming over for lunch and we plan a huge woodling session for the afternoon.
      Happy day!

  3. Anne-Marie

    According to QI, the ‘every colour as long as it’s black’ is a myth, but I love the quote – and the picture of your notebooks 🙂

    When I was little and wrote all the time (wish I’d never stopped), I called my books ‘Tise’ books – Thoughts, Ideas, Stories, Etc. There’s probably a proper name somewhere!

    • Clara

      The quote is a myth? I’m shocked!
      I do love a serious black Moleskine, and I’m very picky on the exact shade of off-white inside. Some are a little too much towards cream, and then I’m absolutely stuck.
      I do like the sound of your Tise books, and I too wish you hadn’t stopped – but there’s still time to go back to it…
      I wonder what came under ‘etc’?

  4. Zoe

    Ah Clara, I have no good answers here. Do you think it makes a difference that you often do both the words and the pictures, as opposed to some who focus on doing pictures and not words and vice versa?
    I quite like the phrase “picture book creator” for someone who does both words and pictures in picture books. Again, not quite accurate, but it captures the doing and the creativity and skill – which for me “writer” alone often doesn’t (or at least doesn’t always imply). You call yourself an illustrator not a draw-er (certainly not a drawer) or painter, but maybe that’s because of using different media and not just drawing?
    I think this would be a great post for author allsorts – with lots of people’s contributions. I’m sure I’m not alone in being very interested to see how various authors/writers/illustrators/picturebook creators like to describe what they do in a word or two.

    • Clara

      You are full of such interesting observations Zoe – I agree, it would make a fascinating Allsorts post inviting lots of different opinions.
      A picture book creator is a lovely phrase. It implies putting it all together in a seamless mix of words and images, and gives a nod to those of us with very strong opinions on every aspect of the book as a desirable object – the feel and smell of the paper, a square spine here or a cloth jacket there…
      At least I have no hesitation in calling myself an illustrator – bringing a story to life rather than painting what’s in front of me for it’s own sake. It’s in my DNA, no surprises there!

  5. Charlotte Guillain

    It’s funny, I always thought ‘author’ sounds like a job whereas ‘writer’ sounds like a vocation/compulsion and somehow more appealing. But when you’ve got the whole illustration thing in the mix I think the word ‘genius’ probably sums it up!

    • Clara

      I love the idea of a compulsion to write; you and Adam have this I think. And authors to boot. Are you every tempted to illustrate your stories?
      It seems that many illustrators start writing (with varying degrees of success) but not so many writers start illustrating – I wonder why this is.
      On behalf of those power-crazy people who insist on doing both, thank you for the genius compliment!



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